What Makes Macklemore Tested Tough?

Last summer, we had the opportunity to sit down with Ben Haggerty, a.k.a Macklemore, to chat about growing up in the Pacific Northwest and how the outdoors plays a part in his life and music.

You have traveled the world, but you always return to the Pacific Northwest. What is it about this place that keeps you coming back?

Macklemore: I think a huge part of it is family and friends. This is my home. This is my upbringing. This is the place I am the most comfortable with and love. I love the environment. I love the water. I love the mountains. I don’t love the rain but you need the rain, too. You have to have the rain to get to the green. The beauty.

There is this tendency for people to think I could live anywhere I want, industry-wise. You could go to LA or New York. For me, it has always been important for my sound to represent where I am from as that is what makes the music authentic. Also, we travel so much that I don’t want to go start over in a different place. I want to go home. I want to go to the restaurants that I grew up going to, to the places that I am familiar with, and be around people that know me.

“I think a huge part of it is family and friends. This is my home. This is my upbringing.”

How did Seattle and the surrounding area influence you and your music?

We are very isolated in the upper left corner of the country and it obviously rains a lot. So there wasn’t that distraction of it always being super sunny outside so let’s go to the beach. It’s raining right now so let’s stay inside and work on our craft more. Whether it be Nirvana, Quincy Jones or Jimi Hendrix, Pearl Jam, there is a long lineage of amazing musician from Seattle and the weather is definitely a factor in staying in the studio and not feeling tempted to leave.

What is your favorite coffee shops, restaurants, places you go in Seattle?

I love Joe Bar and Vivace for coffee. And I’m getting better at brewing my own coffee at home. In terms of food, I love a restaurant called El Farol on 15th. And I love the burger from the Deluxe Bar and Grill.

“I think the outdoors can be very therapeutic and can definitely be conducive to recovery.”

You are a big advocate for helping those with drug addiction, and getting the support they need to make it through recovery. Do you think the outdoors has a place in that recovery process?

I think the outdoors can be very therapeutic and can definitely be conducive to recovery. I went to treatment on an island. Very much in the outdoors. Just to get away from cell service, to reconnect with nature, to just clear your mind from the city and the place you are probably using the most. Just this change of pace and scenery leads to a positive start in the recovery process.

You address social issues and injustices in your music. How does the environment fit into your world view?

It’s easy to get caught up in our own personal luxuries from the smallest thing like a water bottle to the food we eat and how it’s processed and where it comes from to the cars that we drive to the clothes that we wear. Even just thinking about the OutDry Ex ECO jacket that I am wearing today—it puts environmental issues on the radar.

It’s like any social issue—if you are not educated on the issues, around people talking about the issues, it’s easy to never have it come up and continue on with your normal life. Whether it’s a social issue or an environmental issue, it’s all about awareness. That’s what is cool about this jacket—it creates awareness. Environmental change affects us now and the quality of life of people, wildlife, and nature now. How long is this world going to be around for? Are we thinking just about ourselves or for generations to come?

“I think it becomes harder and harder to disengage from technology the more we are immersed in it.”

What are your thoughts on the distraction of younger generations from enjoying what is around them, especially outside?

Growing up in the 80s and 90s, we played outside all day long. There were video games, sure, but I wanted to be outside. My parents raised me to go outside. We went camping. I think it becomes harder and harder to disengage from technology the more we are immersed in it. The accessibility of our phones, how much we are living in our phones. The only exercise kids get is playing Pokemon on their phones.

It takes more of a concerted effort to tap out of the technological bubble that we are wrapped up in. I have a 15-month old daughter and it’s easier for me to put her in front of iPad or TV. It takes energy to take her outside, go to the park, read a book. Those things take more energy but that’s what cultivates a interesting human, not just staring at a screen.

Do you have a favorite outdoor memory from your childhood?

My Godfather had a cabin not too far away from Seattle—we drove through a place called Goose Prairie. We would just throw rocks and compete in rock throwing contests all day. We spent the summers floating the river. Building things out of wood. Being a kid, getting splinters. I loved having that experience as a kid. I should probably focus on having more of those as an adult.